First Cup of Coffee – April 29, 2022




Transcript
00:00.60
jeffekennedy
Good morning everyone this is Jeffe Kennedy author of fantasy romance and romantic fantasy I’m here with my first cup of coffee.

00:15.25
jeffekennedy
I need that kick today today is – say it with me – friday!

00:27.59
jeffekennedy
Ah, ah, April Twenty ninth for all intents and purposes. Not for all intensive purposes which is how some students hear it the end of April I mean we get tomorrow. But. If today is actually your Friday and your last work day of the week that’s pretty much sand of april.

00:56.79
jeffekennedy
Um, so amazing huh First third of 2022 over has it been fast for you or slow. Um a lot of people. It seems like been having. You know, not a great year so far even though things are better. You know we’re opening up from pandemic and everything um people still coping coping with all the things right? So let’s see. Things are good here. We have a little bit of haze from the fires a little bit of smoke haze and very cold tumbling wind this morning I tried to go out to the grape arbor and it was um, yeah too too chilly too. Um. With the high walls around the garden. It’s usually more protected but not this morning so I am being a weeny and being inside.

02:10.24
jeffekennedy
I’m trying to think of what do I have to tell you I think I’m a little tired today I kind of hit tired yesterday afternoon I’ve hit 10000 words for the week that the guy should turn this off. Okay, um, um, it. 67500 on this book and yeah I’ve done over 10000 words this week a little bit more 11000 if you count a couple of blog. Posty type things that I’ve done. Um, so yeah, so the question is it’s not really a question. Ah I I’ve been doing slightly more than 2500 each day just by like 50 words to get myself back on trap track. To finish on May thirteenth is a day I want to be done drafting so that I can then spend the week of May sixteenth doing a full revision and the following week doing a proof I’m doing something different this time did I mention this. I am I’m going to do my own proofing. Usually I pay a proof reader. It’s funny as time goes on I stop paying so many editors and turning into these authors that I speak out a guest saying that everybody needs an editor. But. Do think everybody needs an editor except now I think I don’t um, I’ve stopped paying a developmental editor partly because it’s expensive. It added several weeks into the drafting time and. I didn’t feel like I was getting that much out of it I didn’t feel like um, the editors I was paying to give me content edits were really changing all that much about the story or the things that they were changing I wasn’t convinced that it was making them. All that much better which is kind of a funny place to be but if I have doubts I have my crip partners or beta readers read and since everybody uses those words. Interchangeably I think it’s just out of fashion to say crit partner ah nobody seems to use that word anymore. I think maybe it’s the the shit sandwich thing you know nobody wants to use the word criticism anymore. Um shake my cane shake my wand.

05:00.18
jeffekennedy
Oh and it chimed. ah ah ah yeah so whoever having someone read to give me content subsantive feedback on the book. Um, probably I should do that. I do everyone’s while but it’s when I have doubts so I had gone to having someone proofread the book whos also would give me copy edits and 1 thing I found in doing my big reread of the Heirs of magic. Books because I read the prequel novella and the first 3 in order to write this book for and I kept finding mistakes and I know that there’s you know mistakes are always going to get through but I was trying to decide. I mean I write pretty clean copy I’m I’m fortunate that way that I’m a good speller and I know the punctuation and grammar rules you know and I always say that I don’t know Commas I think comma rules are arbitrary. So I was thinking oh and then one other thing happened is that now I have all 3 Bonds of Magic books in Audio Grey Magic is still waiting to go live but my audiobook narrator. Sent me lists of like errors and typos that she found because reading it out loud. She catches those things and my proof reader was adding five days into the process which and she was doing a great job. You know. Really nothing against her I know that things are always going to slip through but on this book I thought I would experiment and see because I know I want to make sure to catch everything to wind up this series and possibly in this world I don’t know if all right in this world again. Um. Yeah we’ll see but I’m I’m feeling like maybe that’s enough for this world for the moment anyway. So if I spend a week revising this book and then I thought well if I did my own proofing if I spend four days the week of May Twenty third reading the book out loud then I should be able to catch all the typos I can look up any of the formatting our grammatical stuff that I’m not entirely certain of and save myself some money and also give myself that final.

07:51.86
jeffekennedy
Chance to go through because I find things like those word echoes on those awkward phrasings. So this is my experiment I’m going to see if that extra pass of reading aloud um will add anything. To my revision process. So um, let’s see seems like I something happened on Thursday yesterday that I wanted to tell you about hold on who else. I suppose anything that happened Wednesday I would have talked about yesterday I did notice looking at my calendar I was trying to figure out what all I’ve been doing the last few days who knows playing on the streets obviously but shout out to agent Sarah it is her birthday today. Happy birthday Sarah! Sarah Younger at Nancy Yost Literary Agency who works her butt off for her clients and I say this? um I think it’s easy for people to say that. Ah, you know and it’s authors develop certain lingo that then other authors imitate wanting to sound like real authors you know and they’re like oh my amazing agent I remember that when I was a newbie writer. Ah like this one gal I followed was always talking about. And should always put it in capital letters. Amazing agent I don’t remember Anastasia it wasn’t that I don’t remember who it was and you know she would just gush. You know oh spoke with amazing agent and this was in the newer days of Twitter when I felt like we had more conversations. Got to know people. It could be people still do that. But I’ve ended up backing away from Twitter so much and now that Elon Musk wants to turn it into a free for all of we all are we gonna be leaving Twitter.

10:01.92
jeffekennedy
I’ve been seeing some think pieces on what it means for a billionaire to own a social media marketplace like Twitter or Facebook and how that shapes the world question is what are we gonna do about it. Somebody posted the other day about um that the Eu has passed a law. It’s like in the first stage it hasn’t been ah, fully executed like whatever their version of like then you know, starting in the senate and having to go to the house or vice versa. So it’s not a thing yet but they did pass the resolution to make the law or what have you ah to force companies like Amazon and Facebook and so forth to reveal their algorithms and to make them egalitarian and people were saying oh they were excited. Celebrating saying you know Amazon might finally have to reveal their algorithm to us you know like how are they you know promoting some books and not others and I thought I didn’t want to reign on their happy parade. But I was thinking. It’s just never gonna happen Amazon. These companies are never going to ris feel there there I’ll go the rhythms they’re gonna consider it proprietary information. They won’t do it I I could be wrong. It’s happened put it on the calendar. So anyway, um, how did I get there.

11:37.24
jeffekennedy
Sometimes I wish I could replay this thing so I could find my train of thought again sorry I’m a little fuzzy brained today. So let’s see algorithms legalities. Is it gone forever. It might be you guys are shouting at me I also wish that I could hear you tell me what was I thinking about something I was gonna tell you and then I figured out know that Sarah’s birthday I guess yeah, that was it. Agents ah see I can rewind mentally kind of um, but anyway the scout that I used to follow you know and people would always be like oh my amazing agent this and and following her particular journey which I’ve always hated my journey to publication. Ah, we don’t hear that nearly so much anymore probably because there’s so much self- publishing but especially back then because we’re talking more than ten years ago now right? That’s amazing. You know like 2009 is when I joined Twitter. Things were very much about tribe publishing you know and so people would be like posting their milestones so that you like we could follow their journey from pre-published to astonishingly successful the problem with chronicling your journey to publication like that is that. Not everybody made it there and that certainly happened with this gal and I could see her being going back and forth with her agent where she would like revise her book that her agent had signed her on and the agent still didn’t like it and she would talk about oh well, she was going to have to gut it again, but amazing agent Anastasia had given her. You know all of these great notes and she was going to do it again and and I mean this went on for a long time and I was thinking and she’d never even gone on submission and even then being well I wasn’t entirely a baby writer because I’d been in the nonfiction circles for a long time. So I knew how publishing worked and was like she just. And I keep you revising forever chasing some goal some intangible it wasn’t clear to me like what this agent wanted her to do and then eventually she ended up parting waste with the agent you know and she reported this faithfully too. We’ve parted ways because we’re just not a great fit and like and this agent never took her book out on submission. So it was a live and learn kind of thing. Maybe that was beneficial to me that she chronicled her journey to not publishing I don’t think she ever got a book published.

14:24.16
jeffekennedy
Anyway, um, was her agent really amazing was she as delighted as she wanted her chronicle to portray probably not but my agent Sarah is a hell of a worker. She is. Communicative ambitious she takes amazing care of her clients. Ah she is a delightful person in every way and I know that you know like I’m not always an easy client to work with.

15:04.25
jeffekennedy
Neither is Grace Draven for that matter. Also one of Sarah’s clients because we are very definitive about what we need as far as making money and what we put into our self- publishing careers which isn’t always easy for an agent because and there are some agents out there who are like no I don’t want you to so. Publish and Sarah doesn’t ask that of us she she works with us and I I appreciate her I appreciate you Sarah if you listen to this? Um, yeah, you really are an amazing agent. So um, the other exciting thing is that Lonen’s War is out today in Kindle Unlimited with the new covers I probably have to figure out how to brand things. As far as the metadata for Kindle Unlimited readers but because right now the ranking is really really super low. Ah you know and it’s interesting because and I’ve said this often right that I feel like the kindle unlimited ecosystem is just a really different set of readers. And I see this all the time I see these? um you know, authors celebrating other author who are like Kindle un limited famous that I’ve never heard of and the reader is recommending these books and series and they’re just these circles almost don’t overlap anymore. I grew irritated with some of the science fiction and fantasy people the other day and I won’t say why sorry I’m not going to spill that tea but there are circles of snobbery in this business and people forget that. Their particular circle is not the only one in the universe and they take that because they’ve they have never heard of an author that therefore what they’re doing is not worthwhile and it’s not true. That’s not true. So. This is like so far the most abysmal release that I’ve had in a really long time. But I think it’s because I’m so unknown to this Kindle unlimited audience. So I’m looking on it as a challenge to to pick it up I was ah. Venting to some of my writer friends hi gals. Thank you I appreciate you yesterday because one of my longtime readers and I mentioned this I think on yesterday’s podcast does not like the new covers for sorcer moons and and it it kind of got me down and and one of the gals said you know not to let it.

17:53.95
jeffekennedy
Diminish my joy and an assistant Carien said that said the same thing assistant Carien is always ah, awesome. Awesome assistant andastasia ah, um, but yeah, this girl. Who is my reader said well that she missed the pretty covers and said um, finished up with saying she said it was only weapons and she wouldn’t pick these up in a store and I was like oh okay, well first of all I mean the first covers are always going to be there. Guys they’re they’re out there if you love the first covers. Great um, but also I’m not trying to tell this series to the people who already read it right? I’m trying to communicate the genre to this new group of readers. And for the record it is not only weapons on the covers. It is. There’s lots of other elements on the covers and and Carien was resistant to me changing it at first too and now even she is saying that she loves the look of the new series. It’s it’s much more cohesive than it used to be and. I’m looking forward to yeah to just to reach these new readers. Ah, it’s it’s exciting. So um, yeah, lones were out today if you’re in kindle unlimited if you know people enkindle unlimited please share. Um. I I want to want to reach those fantasy romance readers slow burn romance lots of epic fantasy and warrior stuff in it which this was another thing when we were discussing it when this gal said you know gone were the the girls and the horses. And the dragons and that it was only weapons and that it looked like masculine fantasy and I thought why are we correlating weapons with masculine fantasy because I mean and this is someone who’s read all of my books I have female warriors right? You know I invented an entire martial arts system for ah well for Ursula and then ah Kaja and Jenna/Ivariel all follow it. Jepp follow follows it and Jack does too now. They’re all part of that. System and it’s part of the marsh I I not part of I imagined it reimagined it from mar martial art systems that I trained in and I have weapons in my office and and I’m a girlie girl. So um, yeah i.

20:41.71
jeffekennedy
I don’t like the idea that that warrior stuff is correlated only with masculine fantasy. So anyway, off I go to get my final 2500 for the week I hope you all have a wonderful weekend. Um I hope I get to get out in the garden this weekend. That’s my my big goal for it and I will talk to you all on Monday take care bye bye.

21:16.62
jeffekennedy
I’m having trouble I like hit my coffee cup with the mouse here. This is the blooper reel all right by.

When It’s Time to Put New Covers on a Series

This week at the SFF Seven we’re discussing Cover Trends. We’re asking “What was, is, and will be “hot” in cover art/style for your sub-genre? If you have a say in your covers, will you chase the trend or will you stick with the image in your mind?”

There’s a lot to be said on this topic, too much for even a week of blog posts. When I’m asked for advice on covers, which is a frequent request, I tell authors to keep in mind that a cover has two jobs: to attract positive attention and convey genre. This has to be emphasized because authors – both in trad and in self-publishing – tend to get caught up in wanting the cover to adhere to the story. One first-time author who was very upset with the cover her publisher gave her and came to me for advice said “but the cover doesn’t illuminate the story.” I had to tell her that the story’s job is to illuminate the story. The cover does different work: attract the eye and convey genre.
It’s that second that’s most relevant for this week’s discussion. Because trends change and a cover that accurately conveyed genre six years ago may find itself conveying something else entirely to a current audience.
Case in point: I love the covers for my six-book Sorcerous Moons series.

These were among the first book covers I ever commissioned and I particularly adore the cover for book one, LONEN’S WAR. It does come straight from a scene in the book – a pivotal scene that was, in part, the genesis image for the story – and the artist (Louisa Gallie) exactly nailed what I had in mind.

I will always be grateful for Louisa’s gorgeous art and I will always love this cover.

But, recently, people have been pointing out that these covers no longer convey what kind of story these books tell. The fantasy romance genre has moved on. If I want to tell readers that this IS the kind of thing they’re looking for, then I should consider updating to match current trends.

So I did!

Behold: The new cover for LONEN’S WAR!

I contracted with BZN Studio Designs to design new covers for all six books. Right now the series isn’t available, but once I have all six covers, I’ll re-launch the series with some fanfare. I’m super excited to see how they do with the new covers. I’ve heard some people (including my own assistant!) say scathingly that these look like all the other covers out there in this subgenre, and there’s truth to that.

AND THAT’S THE POINT.

The content is what makes the stories unique. The covers are doing the job they’re supposed to do. Caught your eye, did it? I hope so! And I’m hoping you also know exactly what kind of story you’ll get.

La Guerre de Lonen Is Out!

LA GUERRE DE LONEN, the French translation of LONEN’S WAR, the first in my six-book fantasy romance series, Sorcerous Moons, is live! I’m eager to see how my University French holds up to attempting a read.

If you’re in the Albuquerque or greater New Mexico area, I’ll be signing copies of THE ORCHID THRONE on Saturday, October 5, at 4pm at Page 1 Books. Here’s a nice write-up of the upcoming event. 

Finally, SEASONS OF SORCERY is on sale for only $2.49! (Down from $6.99.) Great time to grab a copy of this amazing Fantasy Anthology.

Finding Solutions to Conflict – in Life and in Fiction

Lonen's War Book Cover

I received a very interesting set of questions on Facebook from a reader who just finished reading WARRIOR OF THE WORLD. They’re such good questions that they deserve a thoughtful answer, so I decided to do that here. I hope she doesn’t mind! 

She said:

…one of the things that I feel like you do extremely well is create empathy for both “sides” of a war/ disagreement/conflict. In art, as in life I see most often empathy/sympathy being created with blame/making the other side the “bad guy”, etc. You seem to…skip that part? So this is a two part question:
1. Do you find yourself able to do that within your own life? (like are you less of a blamer, more of a solution finder – I’m working so so so hard on that with my kids and am interested in the HOW of it)
2. And two, HOW do you do it, first within yourself, and then secondarily, how do you WRITE it so that I, as a reader, don’t find myself coming down overly hard on one side – how do you make the gray the overwhelming tone, rather than the black and white?

So, here are my answers, plus a few more thoughts.

  1. I would say that I’m more of a solution finder than a blamer. I’m an INTJ and the Thinker/Judger very much plays into a lot of how I approach life. I’m pretty good at stepping back and taking an analytical, less emotional view of a situation. I think that kind of objectivity and critical thinking is key to problem-solving. It’s not always easy – and sometimes I have to wait for the initial emotional storm to blow through before I can get to that place of greater objectivity (none of us can ever be fully free of bias) – but once I can reply the situation from their point of view, then I can get closer.
  2. Part of being a storyteller is being able to tell ALL sides of a story, so that’s part of how I do this, both in fiction and in real life – I look at how I’d tell the story from THEIR point of view. In life, one my mantras is “compassion and tolerance.” I don’t always *practice* this as well as I’d like to, but if someone pisses me off in traffic, for example, I try to imagine the person driving that car is one of my closest friends, who I adore, but who is a TRULY TERRIBLE driver. Or I imagine their story – they just had a big fight with their spouse, or they’re sick and feel miserable and just need to get to the store to pick up their prescription. That makes it much easier for me to forgive their behavior and move on. One of the truths of life is that everyone is struggling with something. We may not know what it is, but we can either try to find out (not always practical) or imagine what their story might be (always an option). So, I think as a writer, what I do is give you a window into the story of the people on the other side of the conflict. I suppose that, in my heart, I don’t believe in good or evil – I think everyone does what they do for what they see as very good reasons of their own. Some of those reasons have horrible consequences for other people, but they do have them. Understanding those reasons helps us to cut off their actions at the root.

Looking at the story in WARRIOR OF THE WORLD, part of what I wanted to get was the female perspective on war. I think a whole lot of war – both in real life and in fiction – tends to be driven by male aggression. It’s not across the board, but I think it’s a strong driver, particularly in this century when so many wars have been driven by political ambitions and corporations wanting to monopolize resources. The war pending in this book is about controlling scarce resources, with those on the lean end wanting to attack those with plenty. The women in the book point out that just because one arm of a society is aggressive, however, doesn’t mean that everyone in that culture feels the same. A large part of any society gets dragged along with whatever the leaders decide – and often those being dragged along are women, children, the elderly, and those unable or unwilling to be warriors, for whatever reason. I think this was maybe different in other wars. I like to imagine the women of the American Revolutionary War and Civil War were much more involved because those were conflicts that directly impacted daily living and quality of life.

Now, men often criticize women writers for focusing on what they perceive as minutiae. Naturally, however, the person who sits down at table to consume a meal has a very different perspective than the person responsible for putting three nutritious meals on that table every day. This doesn’t have to fall out along gender lines, but it often does, particularly in the last century. When you have pretty much one gender in another country fighting a war and the other back at home, then you know which one is thinking about the daily minutiae of living. So, in this story, I wanted to deliberately draw that out and have the women of the family say, “Hey, who are you raging at? Do you think the babies and eldsters want to attack you?” They’re taking that position of recognizing the other’s story.

This is something that’s important to me as a person and as a writer, which is part of why I love the trope of enemies-to-lovers. That’s part of why I put LONEN’S WAR at the top, though I also explored similar themes in THE MARK OF THE TALA. That LONEN’S WAR cover encapsulates a great deal of that theme for me – of confronting the supposedly monstrous enemy and coming to not only understand them, but to love them. That whole Sorcerous Moons series is about two warring cultures coming together in part by learning each other’s stories. 

How’s that for a long answer?

 

Kick-Ass Heroines in the SFWA Fantasy Storybundle! (plus TWO cover reveals!)

Wow – today is a busy day! First off, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) has partnered with Storybundle to produce the 2019 Fantasy Story bundle. Our theme is “kick-ass heroines” and there are tons – with all varieties of ass-kicking abilities – for your reading pleasure. It includes my own THE ARROWS OF THE HEART and 15 other books!

Here’s the scoop:

The 2019 SFWA Fantasy Bundle – Curated by Terry Mixon

Welcome to the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America Fantasy StoryBundle of 2019! We’re pleased to be working with StoryBundle to bring you some amazing stories this year, both from bestselling authors and bright stars on the rise.

It was a real pleasure reading the submissions from SFWA members this year and, as every year, we had a rough time narrowing the selection to just a few books. We think you’ll be delighted as there is something for everyone in this great bundle.

SFWA is over 50 years old and its membership consists of professional writers and publishing professionals from around the globe. It administers the Nebula Awards each year, and so very much more. Check out the SFWA website at sfwa.org for information on genre writing, the field, and other services.

If you want to know more about other SFWA offerings, sign up for our quarterly newsletter, which features new and backlist releases from our members in the area of fiction, games, and other offerings.

Some of the highlights in this bundle are:

The Arrows of the Heart by Jeffe Kennedy. What do you do when your boyfriend is an animal? Really. An animal.

The Twenty-Sided Sorceress, Books 1-3 by Annie Bellet. Gamer. Nerd. Sorceress. After twenty-five years fleeing from a powerful sorcerer, a mostly-human woman is finally safe – if she can resist using her magic. Or can she?

The Dragon Blood Collection, Books 1-3 by Lindsay Buroker. A dashing Pilot, a comely Sorcerous and smart mouthed Soulsword all come together in a world intent on killing them.

• Radiance by Grace Draven. A marriage between alien kingdoms – and two “spares” who find beauty in each other, and that heroism comes in many forms.

• Ashwin by Kit Rocha. Can a genetically manipulated soldier be a hero? A healer finds a way to love a man without feelings—and fight for brightness in a dark world.

• The Raven and the Reindeer by Ursula Vernon. An enthralling remix of a classic fairy tale, with a practical heroine who follows her heart to a very different ending.

The SFWA Fantasy bundle only runs for three weeks, so don’t hesitate. It’s a great deal with a ton of terrific fiction just waiting for you click the button. We had a great time reading every book in this bundle. So should you.

For StoryBundle, you decide what price you want to pay. For $5 (or more, if you’re feeling generous), you’ll get the basic bundle of five books in any ebook format—WORLDWIDE.

  • The Twenty-Sided Sorceress – Books 1-3 by Annie Bellet
  • Ashwin by Kit Rocha
  • Blade & Rose by Miranda Honfleur
  • Amaskan’s Blood by Raven Oak
  • Genrenauts – The Complete Season One by Michael R. Underwood

If you pay at least the bonus price of just $15, you get all five of the regular books, plus SEVEN more!

  • Radiance by Grace Draven
  • The Arrows of the Heart by Jeffe Kennedy
  • The Raven and the Reindeer by T. Kingfisher
  • Blood Dragon – Books 1-3 by Lindsay Buroker
  • Al-Kabar by Lee French
  • The Glass Gargoyle by Marie Andreas
  • Catching Echoes – Reconstructionist Series Book 1 by Meghan Ciana Doidge

This bundle is available only for a limited time via http://www.storybundle.com. It allows easy reading on computers, smartphones, and tablets as well as Kindle and other ereaders via file transfer, email, and other methods. You get multiple DRM-free formats (.epub and .mobi) for all books!

It’s also super easy to give the gift of reading with StoryBundle, thanks to our gift cards – which allow you to send someone a code that they can redeem for any future StoryBundle bundle – and timed delivery, which allows you to control exactly when your recipient will get the gift of StoryBundle.

Why StoryBundle? Here are just a few benefits StoryBundle provides.

  • Get quality reads: We’ve chosen works from excellent authors to bundle together in one convenient package.
  • Pay what you want (minimum $5): You decide how much these fantastic books are worth. If you can only spare a little, that’s fine! You’ll still get access to a batch of exceptional titles.
  • Support authors who support DRM-free books: StoryBundle is a platform for authors to get exposure for their works, both for the titles featured in the bundle and for the rest of their catalog. Supporting authors who let you read their books on any device you want—restriction free—will show everyone there’s nothing wrong with ditching DRM.
  • Give to worthy causes: Bundle buyers have a chance to donate a portion of their proceeds to the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America!
  • Receive extra books: If you beat the bonus price, you’ll get the bonus books!

StoryBundle was created to give a platform for independent authors to showcase their work, and a source of quality titles for thirsty readers. StoryBundle works with authors to create bundles of ebooks that can be purchased by readers at their desired price. Before starting StoryBundle, Founder Jason Chen covered technology and software as an editor for Gizmodo.com and Lifehacker.com.

For more information, visit our website at storybundle.com, tweet us at @storybundle and like us on Facebook.

Also, if you get my newsletter, you’ve already seen that we revealed the cover of ORIA’S ENCHANTMENT, the long-anticipated (read: took forever for me to get to it) next installment in the Sorcerous Moons series. There’s no preorders for this one, but it should go live by Monday, January 28, 2019. We’ll send a newsletter out as soon as we know at least the Amazon link is live. If you haven’t subscribed, you can here. Or just watch my social media and I’ll try to post those retailer links as I have them.

And now, for the cover, see below!

ORIA’S ENCHANTMENT coming January 28(ish)

Finally, I’ve mentioned elsewhere, but maybe not here, that the Sorcerous Moons books will be translated into French! And today my French Publisher, Alter Real, revealed the cover for the translation of LONEN’S WAR, which has very neatly become LA GUERRE DE LONEN. And the cover is super cool.

Check it out below

Finally, there’s a fab giveaway that Rebel Base Books is running to celebrate the recent release of WARRIOR OF THE WORLD, the third and final book in the Chronicles of Dasnaria trilogy. It includes a fantastic bookend I’d love to have for myself. Check it out here.

Whew!

Collaborations and New Things

It’s starting to be spring here. One of the things I love about the early blossoms like these crocus is how they push up from the bracken, surprising me with their sudden spots of color. 

I’ve been writing a new character, the first scientist heroine I’ve had since Gwynn in Covenant of Thorns. This one is working as a scientist for her profession, and it’s interesting to get back in that head of a person who meticulously observes and understands nature. I used to be that person, back when I was working on my PhD in Zoology & Physiology. Now I’m thinking about stuff like form and function again, and how organisms fit into an ecosystem. I’ve even been pulling my books on natural history off the shelf to bring those parts of my brain out of the coma they’ve been in all these years. It’s like I’m turning on the lights in a wing of the castle I closed off long ago. The chimneys are belching smoke, lots of dusting to do – but I also rediscovering a lot of great stuff I forget was stored in there. 

This is the collaboration I’ve been working on. I’ve been pretty close to the vest about it, but it’s looking like this will happen! My collaborator is Jim Sorenson, who comes from a graphic novel/Transformers/GI Joe background. He lives in Albuquerque (an hour away) with his wife, who is a kick-ass trauma surgeon. Jim brings a whole other element of storytelling to the table, plus he’s experienced in working as part of a team, so he’s incredibly indulgent of my process. He’s also *really* good at observing world rules, so he’s become my walking story bible. I’ve often said I didn’t think I could collaborate with someone else on a book – because I like things MY WAY – but this has been a terrific experience. And fun!

It’s also been a stretch for me, creatively and craft-wise. It reminds me of when I went from writing short – essays and short stories – to writing novels, and I felt like I had to learn to write all over again. This has been a bit like that, learning to develop a story with another brain in the mix. 

So, we pitched an idea to Agent Sarah, and we’ve been working it up with her feedback. Jim has now signed with her, too, so we can run all the legalities of the collaboration through the agency. We just finished up another draft and sent it to her to read. That’s one of the “future project balls” I’ve been juggling that I mentioned in my Sunday post at the SFF Seven. Fingers crossed we can go on submission with it soon! 

In the meanwhile, LONEN’S WAR and LAST DANCE are on sale for 99 cents right now. (You can also get one of those free if you want to sign up for my newsletter.) Share that news around if you like! Last Dance

Lonen's War Book Cover

 

 

Defying Themes – and Succeeding Anyway!

The sun cresting Pusch Ridge in Tucson, spilling light through the cleft at sunrise – so beautifully dramatic. 

I came to Tucson to give the Saguaro Romance Writers my workshop on Defying Gravity: Writing Cross-Genre and Succeeding Anyway. They’re a terrific group and we had a great time. 

This week’s topic at the SFF Seven is Make a Meme: You vs. Your Protagonist. And I… just can’t do this. I’m staying at my mom and stepdad’s house in Tucson, and my mom says she thinks memes (she pronounced it may-may) are silly and I should tell all of you that. 

I admit I’m not a huge fan of memes either – and I don’t really think of my protagonists as other, so I’m coming up empty on that one. However, I thought I should let you all know that the SFWA Fantasy Storybundle sale is almost over – ending November 2 at midnight ET! Last chance to buy four books for $5 or twelve books for $15! My book, LONEN’S WAR, is part of the core four books, so here’s a little excerpt of that, if you’d like to check it out!

********

Lonen had seen many strange things in the past weeks. Impossible magic and horrific deaths that would take him years to purge from his nightmares, if he ever could.

If he lived that long.

The sight of the woman in the window hit him with enough force to unbalance him. Through the blood-drenched night, he’d kept focus on one kill after the next and only on that, much the way he’d climbed the wall, except that he slit the throats of defenseless women, one after another, instead of reaching for holds. They died so easily, seeming oblivious to his approach, focusing their placid attention outward to the battle where the booming assault of the sorcerers diminished and ceased as their sisters succumbed to the blades of Lonen and his men.

The fact that they didn’t fight back, that they remained so vulnerable, sickened him, each death layering on unclean guilt that he’d ignored until the vision of the woman in the window knifed into him like an unseen blade. Maybe it was because her fair coloring was so much like the first woman he’d killed. After that one, he hadn’t looked at their faces, taking the dispensation offered by their featureless masks.

For whatever reason, the sight of her gripped him, standing in the open window, illuminated by candlelight in an otherwise dark tower that rose from a deep abyss. Her hair shone a copper color he’d never seen on a living being, like a hammered metal cloak that shifted with her startled movements. She put a hand to her throat, eyes dark in her fine-boned face. A creature from children’s tales perched beside her, staring at him intently. He would have thought it a statue carved from alabaster, but it swiveled its head on its neck to look at the woman, then back to him.

Lonen had seen illustrations of dragons in his boyhood books, but they’d been huge and…fictional. This thing looked very like those, only smaller—maybe as long as his forearm, not counting the tail. All white, it shimmered in the bright torchlight from the walls much as the woman’s hair did. It sat on its haunches, taloned feet clutching the stone windowsill, bat-winged forearms mantled. Large eyes with bright green shine dominated a wedge-shaped head with a narrow jaw and large ears. It lashed its long, sinuous tail against the stone, as a cat watching birds would.

Beautiful, both of them, and as fantastical as if they’d stepped out of one of those storybooks. The wonder of the sight swept away all the bloody horror. She was the bright face of the terrible magics—something lovely, pure and otherworldly. Something in him lunged at the prospect of such beauty in the world, a part of him he hadn’t known existed. Or rather, a part he hadn’t thought survived from childhood. That sense of wonder he’d felt looking at those storybook illustrations, long since lost to the grind of the Golem Wars. He lifted a hand, not sure what he meant to do. A salute? A greeting?

“Prince Lonen!” Alby ran up, bow in hand. “Why do you—a sorceress!” He reached for an arrow and notched it, a smooth, practiced movement that Lonen barely stopped in time.

“No,” he commanded. “Stand down. She wears no mask. She isn’t one of them.”

“They’re all the enemy,” Alby insisted through gritted teeth, resisting Lonen’s grip. “She’s seen us.”

“It doesn’t matter.” Abruptly weariness swamped Lonen. Far too soon for him to wear out, as much remained to be done. That bright bubble of the fantastic had distracted him, the shattering of that brief moment of childlike wonder more painful for the sudden loss of it. He’d have been better off not feeling it at all. “Her people are largely dead, their defenses falling around them. Look out at the plain.”

Alby followed his nod. Grienon, enormous and low in the sky, waxed toward full, shedding silvery light on the quiet field. None of the magical fireballs or earthquakes thundered through the night. The golems had dropped like corn stalks after harvest. The Destrye forces moved in a familiar cleanup pattern, groups of warriors methodically searching the field for the dying, to either save or dispatch, depending on which side they’d fought for—and if they could be saved. Other groups remained in pitched battle, but the Destrye had the upper hand. Without their magic, the Bárans would eventually fall.

For as many years as they’d worked towards this day, Lonen had expected to feel jubilation, triumph, the roar of victory. Not the drag of exhaustion and regret. Their plan had worked far better than any of them had dared to hope—and yet only bleakness filled his heart.

The copper-haired woman’s fault, for showing him a glimpse of a dream of something more than monstrous death and destruction. He’d been better off hoping simply to live to the next moment, or not to die in vain.

Hope and the promise of wonder could destroy a man’s spirit more surely than a well-wielded blade.

With one last look at the woman in the window, he turned his back on her and her false promise. “Come, Alby. Let’s find a ladder or stairway down to the city inside the walls, so we can open the gates.” One that wouldn’t plunge him into that dark abyss. “There must be stairs or ladders that the sorceresses climbed. By sunrise, Bára will be ours.”

Soon he would be done with this evil place.

Trigger Warnings – Do We Need Them?

The first SFWA Fantasy Story Bundle has been selling like hotcakes! Which…how DO hotcakes sell, anyway? Maybe fast before they cool off too much. But these stories will keep. For only $5 you get four full-length novels and for $15 total, you can get all twelve. Keep them forever and read at your leisure! A great way to discover new-to-you authors while supporting both those authors and the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, who does so much to advocate for the genre and the profession. The first book in my Sorcerous Moons fantasy romance series, Lonen’s War, is a part of the bundle.

Our topic this week at the SFF Seven is Trigger Warnings: When Subject Matter is Controversial. Come on over for my take.